Kafka’s the Metamorphosis is hitherto considered as a story with many insightful implications: the reflection of a parent-child relationship, the world dominated by money, the change (active or passive), or the loss of people among relatives, colleagues … Readers of the novel often fall into feelings of depression, sadness mixing when the story ends, also when so many thoughts about their fate of people in society are constantly being opened despite the last page was closed. Within the scope of this article, there are many paradoxical points that evoke the sense of absurdity such as Gregor’s transformation itself as well as the way himself and people respond to that event. Therefore, this essay will go through three sections which are clearly absurd in the text and then point out its impact on perceiving the real essence of the problem in society.
“The Metamorphosis” is the story revolving around a character named Gregor Samsa, one day suddenly “transformed” into a giant bug. Before that, Gregor was a breadwinner of the whole family with his father, mother and younger sister. However, the oddly strange incident suddenly turned everything upside down in his life. Gregor has endured a long life in the dark with the rejection, disgust and, hatred of those around him, including his relatives.
From the beginning of the story, the way Gregor has fallen into such irony – suddenly turns into bugs without any explanation becomes the first significant absurdity of the text. If that situation arises, it must be panicking and unable to understand what would happen, but Gregor was the opposite. The thought of fear did not flash through his thoughts for even a second but instead was the anxiety, fear of being reprimanded by his employer and family for taking a break from work. It is also notable that there is no explanation or clue in “Metamorphosis” why the transformation occurs. Even Gregor has never questioned the reason and easily accepts it as a normal circumstance without making any efforts to fix it. He accepted the distortion as the obvious result of his life.
What bothered him the most was how to adjust the bug’s body, the animal’s appearance to suit his daily routine. The Metamorphosis begins with such satire. The explanation for the absurdity in the Metamorphosis indicates that the fear of losing their jobs, the fear of debt overwhelm their demands and dreams in society. They only know how to constantly work, to earn money and make money like machines. This is exaggerated by the absurdity, that even though his body had turned into an insect, Gregor still remains focused on largely ordinary concerns and thinks mechanically that he had to go to work on time, he had to find a reason with his manager otherwise he would get fired. With a life without purpose, maintaining a job that he did not like in order to pay off the family’s debt became the greatest obsession when he woke up.
The next section is the paradox in the way the physical demands of the new body are reconciled with his human emotions and thinking. Gregor’s transformation not only completely alters his outward appearance but also has a change – a change in biological habit. At first, he tries to get up or tries to keep himself clean as a human, but the later he compromises the insect’s habit: preferring to crawl up walls and ceilings, not caring about leftovers spattered on his body. Before turning into the insect, Samsa accepted the absurdity of trying to earn money to support his family while they did not do anything to help him. After turning into the inscest, he quickly adapted to his anomalous life: gradually getting used to the animal’s movements, craving for stale food, enjoying the ability to climb to the ceiling without falling down. But his mind still remains the sense of human consciousness. He always gives his most tender to his family. Every second of his life, he always feels guilty when his transformation becomes a burden. Therefore, humanity in Gregor never disappears entirely, as a result, he feels conflicted. This contradiction and disconnection between his body and mind culminated when Grete and his mother moved furniture out of Gregor’s room, which is his strong resistance to withstand the change, the alienation which comes from compromise with absurdities.
Furthermore, constructing the absurdity intensifies Gregor’s tragedy in his days living in insect form while he still understood human language, still thought like a human. Gregor has the opportunity to reflect on the days that have passed, about his life – a life that before, engrossed in running the flow of life. He imbues with the estrangement of his family members, then painfully realizes that he had never understood his beloved ones so far that he was just a shadow among his family, a money-making machine for them to enjoy.
However, he still does not cease his constant love for family, which adds more to the absurd picture. The more he tries to get people to understand himself, the more he tries to express his feelings, the more horrified and scared they are. One of the important pieces that leads to the turning point of Gregor’s death is when he heard the sound of his sister’s piano, despite his physical pain, his inferiority complex in appearance, Gregor tries to crawl toward her, tries to find a way to cheer, encourage, motivate her. Because in the past, no one in the family except Gregor could understand the sound of his younger sister’s piano. But that good intention not only does not receive understanding and recognition but it also provokes people’s anger. Apparently, Gregor and his family are completely alien people. They are not the same “channel” of communication and they belong to different worlds. Gregor’s efforts to make people understand him, to show affection to his relatives, only extended the gap: from the horror, the fear of his distortion, the people switched to pity, then quickly became indifferent and eventually completely alien. He was viewed as a stain, a humiliation, a threat to their life.
With Gregor’ family, all members also play an important role in contributing to the absurdity of the work. Firstly, he characters are thrown into a surprising setting, but the way they handle it is strangely indifferent. Not understanding the cause, not trying to find a solution, the people in this fragile novel by Kafka simply drift with the current, follow what is happening to act. They appear to deal with the incident happened to Gregor as an arbitrary occurrence, simply as if it just was an ailment, not shocked or pardoned. Secondly, their attitudes and behaviors towards Gregor – one piece of their family is abnormal. The responsibility in the family is appreciated by Gregor while the rest of the family does not think much of it.
Since he disfigured his appearances, they seemed to alienate and abandon him. They feel disgusted when looking at his figure without compassionate and sympathy. They began to find ways to get rid of the responsibility when the value they sought was no longer available. They may be accustomed to Gregor bringing home money without gratitude but never get used to his new form. Or, Gregor could accept their change without a complaint, but they could not accept him in the same way. All the contradictions and absurdities built up together create a tragedy where the only deliverance is death. Death came to Gregor as a relief, not only for himself, but for all those around him. The end, though tragic with Gregor, may open new hopes for the Samsa family. Furthermore, the reader might have realized: the actual incarnation may not have happened to Gregor, even though he turned into a giant insect. Metamorphosis is a change, not a mere process of alienation as many people misunderstand. The Metamorphosis of Gregor just a catalyst (or a victim) in the “great” incarnation of the others.
In conclusion, absurdities are constructed, to tell the truth – a harsh truth. We know that this story is illogical but still receptive and caught up in the ridiculous dimension to which it is displayed. When the absurdity has become the essence of the world and the essence of the human condition, it is also apparent for people to accept the absurdity. In the world of Kafka, people postulate absurdity as a common phenomenon of life. Actually this is a surrealist work, absurd but full of reality. One day, Gregor Samsa turns into a bug. One day, we are no longer us. There is no reason. There is no explanation. Life is not inherently a math problem with a predetermined answer. Life is just life. Absurd, imperfect, random. We live suddenly, die suddenly. The only thing that can be sure of is that nothing is certain.